Epic Games reveals Unreal Engine 5 with (real) gameplay demo running on PlayStation 5

Laurent Giret

If we expected to have a first-look at next-gen games during Microsoft’s Inside Xbox episode last week, the true next-gen reveal actually happened today courtesy of Epic Games. The maker of the popular Unreal Engine 4 has just announced the Unreal Engine 5, with a real-time demo running on Sony’s upcoming PlayStation 5 console.

That’s right, Epic Games is helping Sony to claim back the next-gen gaming narrative with this video, even though the Japanese company has yet to reveal the design of the PlayStation 5. The real-time demo called “Lumen in the Land of Nanite” shows amazingly realistic graphics. “One of our goals in this next generation is to achieve photorealism on par with movie CG and real life, and put it within practical reach of development teams of all sizes through highly productive tools and content libraries,” Epic Games said.

This first demo leverages two new Unreal Engine 5 feature: a fully dynamic global illumination solution called Lumen, as well as Nanite virtualized micropolygon geometry, a new technology allowing game developers to import “film-quality source art comprising hundreds of millions or billions of polygons” into the engine. Epic Games also lauded the PlayStation 5’s ultra-fast storage and memory. “To support vastly larger and more detailed scenes than previous generations, PlayStation 5 provides a dramatic increase in storage bandwidth,” the company said.

If the Unreal Engine 5 will support both the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X consoles (in addition to current-generation consoles, PC, Mac, iOS, and Android) when it’s released in 2021, the fact that Epic Games chose the PlayStation 5 to showcase its new engine looks like a real endorsement. Keep in mind that on paper, the PlayStation 5 with its 10,3 teraflops is less powerful than the Xbox Series X and its 12 teraflops, though the PlayStation 5 looks more than capable in this first gameplay video.

In retrospect, it seems that Microsoft probably dropped the ball with its Inside Xbox livestream last week, with an excess of cinematic trailers and a lack of in-depth look at next-gen features. Whether the company likes it or not, everyone will now be talking about this first PlayStation 5 gameplay footage in the coming days, and we really hope Microsoft will have something new to show before revealing its next-gen first-party games in July.

Epic Games also announced today that its blockbuster game Fortnite, which is built with the Unreal Engine 4, will be available on next-gen consoles at launch. While the game isn’t really a great showcase for photorealistic graphics, it will also make the transition to the Unreal Engine 5 next year.